The Hofesh Shechter Company is a hard-hitting force combining rock music and dance, and blasts into Toronto with its must-see spectacle Political Mother.
As Canadian Stage continues to confront audiences with new, challenging, boundary-bending theatre (hate it or love it), its dance programming cannot, and should not, fall by the wayside. And if there was ever a show to knock Torontonians over the head, or the ears, with the power of contemporary dance, it’s Political Mother.
The internationally renowned Hofesh Shechter Company, currently making its Toronto debut, presents a loud, fast, and angry blend of rock music, military drumming, and dance composed and choreographed by the company’s founder, Hofesh Shechter. At the age of 37, the London-based, Israel-born dancer only has nine shows to list in his repertoire, and Political Mother is his first full-length piece, but he was greeted by the crowd at the Bluma Appel Theatre on opening night with the energy and cheers you’d expect to hear at a rock concert.
That’s likely because the seven-member band of electric guitarists and drummers give the 70-minute-long performance hard-hitting tempos and rhythms, seeming to replace the dancers’ biological sources of energy with the pure force of the soundwaves crashing overhead. It’s music that matches the feel of the dances, which examine the helplessness of day-to-day life devoted to another being—played by a performer who sometimes takes on the guise of an authoritarian dictator and sometimes that of a rap music artist.
Meanwhile, 13 dancers on the floor leap, shake, and roll their way through medieval warrior gear, 1940s-era prisoner jumpsuits, and modern-day streetwear. While their service to a higher power is at times directly related to the eponymous Political Mother, other subtler issues of sex, illness, and capitalism are beautifully woven in. All of these topics, sounds, and ideas could in theory make for a confusing and disturbing ride, but Shechter wisely doesn’t attempt a linear narrative, and he’s ensured an overall message comes through loud and clear-and not only because of the decibel level.
Political Mother‘s energy feels very young: in the music, the angst, the quick movements from the dancers, and hints of sarcasm in the staging. But it is also timeless, as the decade-spanning costumes suggest. The show consists mainly of group dances, with a few pairs breaking off here and there—a way for Shechter to highlight that the sense of frustration, immobility, and ineffectiveness he conjures is widespread. In one moving scene, he gestures at the possibility of overcoming these frustrations if only the dancers could work together; without that cumulative strength, they’re caught in a repeating movement until one by one, they give up for good.
The audience leaped to its feet at the end, and left the theatre buzzing with energy. If it was Shechter’s amibition to make his audiences equally as angry as the piece he’s created, however, he failed—those who lasted through the 70 minutes of rock, drumming, and dance were nothing but thrilled.